Agents raid home of ex-National Archives official
Updated 6:19 p.m. ET
By Ed O'Keefe, Spencer S. Hsu and Lisa Rein
Federal agents raided the home of a former National Archives and Records Administration employee Tuesday after watchdogs said the agency is leaving itself vulnerable to significant security breaches by failing to properly safeguard sensitive information.
About a dozen federal and local agents executed a search warrant Tuesday at the Rockville home of Leslie Waffen, in the 500 block of Saddle Ridge Lane, said Deputy U.S. Marshal David Ablondi, spokesman for the U.S. Marshals Service in Maryland. (An earlier version of this posting inaccurately said the raid took place Thursday.)
A law enforcement official said five U.S. Marshals agents assisted three or four agents with the National Archives Office of Inspector General. They were backed up by a Montgomery County Police squad car. It appeared that Waffen and his wife were awakened by the agents. They were dressed in sweats and a house coat, respectively, said the official, who asked for anonymity because the investigation is ongoing.
Archives agents arrived with a moving truck and list of items they were searching for. Waffen directed the agents to his basement, where they identified and removed "10 to 20 boxes," a law enforcement official said. Agents were at the home for about 45 minutes, but the official did not identify what was contained in the boxes.
"He was surprised at first, and then I guess resigned," the official said. "His wife, she was almost hysterical and then she calmed down. He was subdued."
Waffen was not arrested and was not charged, the official said. Waffen is the former chief of NARA's motion picture, sound and video branch, according to the agency's Web site.
Waffen could not immediately be reached and his attorney, Michael Fayad, declined to comment. The raid was first reported by TBD.com.
"OIG agents did in fact execute a search warrant at a residence in Rockville, Md.," NARA Inspector General Paul Brachfeld confirmed in an interview. "Right now, the whole issue is under seal, and I can't talk about it at this point in time."
Brachfeld said agents from his office were working with U.S. Attorney for Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein and that he would have more to say "at an appropriate time."
NARA will fully cooperate with authorities in ongoing theft investigations, Archivist of the United States David S. Ferriero said in a memo sent to employees Thursday.
"As I have stated on several occasions, the security of the holdings of the National Archives is my highest priority," he said. "I will not tolerate any violation of the law that protects both records and property that belongs to the U.S. government and the American people. We have recently put in place a holdings protection team that is working closely with archival units to design improved training techniques, institute new policies and procedures, and purchase new equipment to ensure that our holdings are safe."
Ferriero also commended the inspector general's office for its "commitment to ensuring the restoration of stolen property back to the National Archives."
Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa), who has tracked NARA security concerns for years, said, "It's good to hear the archivist say that securing holdings is his highest priority. There's a lot of work to be done because these problems have needed correction for years. I hope there will be a plan to get the organization back on track quickly."
Reports by the Government Accountability Office found NARA is leaving itself open to hackers as it preserves records electronically. Auditors found the agency did not protect its computer networks with strong firewalls, used weak passwords and failed to encrypt sensitive information.
The report also highlighted a "large and persistent" backlog of paper and media records that need to be preserved.
Sen. Thomas E. Carper (D-Del.), who also tracks NARA issues, said he is "deeply concerned" by GAO's reports.
"The items in jeopardy are more than just pieces of paper, collectibles, or electronic files - they are priceless links that connect us to our nation's history and help tell the story of America," Carper said. "So I am sure it is unsettling to the American people - as it is to me - that the monumental task of preserving these valuable artifacts is not always being performed to the standards we all should expect."
Lawmakers last year blasted NARA for the theft of a hard drive with one terabyte's worth of sensitive data from the Clinton administration. The drive contained national security information, more than 100,000 Social Security numbers, contact information for Clinton administration officials, Secret Service and White House operating procedures, event logs, social gathering logs and political records.
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Ed O'Keefe and Spencer S. Hsu
| October 28, 2010; 4:17 PM ET
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